HOCKEY PREVIEW: One Last Shot
Bolden Looking To Lead Her Team One Step Further
Published: Thursday, October 11, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01
Getting to the national semifinal is quite the accomplishment, and to do so in two consecutive years is something that nearly every program dreams of achieving. For women’s ice hockey captain Blake Bolden, however, making it to the Frozen Four has become a mere stepping-stone for what she knows her Boston College squad can achieve in the upcoming season.
“I feel it in every bone in my body that we’re going to come out with a bang this year,” Bolden said. “I think everybody [in the program] knows that it is no longer just about getting to the Frozen Four. It’s now about winning the whole thing and making a name for ourselves. This is the season.”
The senior defenseman was promoted to the captaincy this offseason by head coach Katie King Crowley, and has a firm belief that this season will be the Eagles’ year.
Each of the past two seasons have ended in defeat at the hands of the No. 1 Wisconsin Badgers in the Frozen Four semifinals. But Bolden was not shy about her desire to grab the spotlight, and the No. 1 spot, from a Badger team that has become BC’s perennial tormentor.
“We just want to win it all and be No. 1 in the nation,” Bolden said. “I think that is realistic. We have an amazing team this season. This team, from the freshmen to the seniors, is so skilled, knowledgeable and hardworking. It’s an amazing feeling to be on such a good team that has the potential to accomplish anything, so I’m really excited for this year.”
One thing that is certain is that if the Eagles want another shot at Wisconsin this year, Bolden will be one of their keys to getting there, both on and off the ice.
The senior arrived on the Heights with an abundance of experience playing in big games, as she had featured in the national team program since the age of 14. In the two years before she came to the Heights, Bolden was a member of the U-18 U.S.A. squads that took gold in the 2008 and 2009 World Junior Championships.
This seemed to give the defenseman the confidence necessary to acclimate seamlessly to the collegiate level as a freshman. She went on to lead all freshman blueliners in Hockey East with four goals and nine assists for 13 points, and earned a spot on the Hockey East All-Rookie Team.
As a sophomore, her offensive production continued as an upward trend, as she netted an impressive eight goals and 11 assists, all from her spot on the blue line. Seven of those came on the power play, making the BC special teams unit a force to be reckoned with.
As is apparent from her lofty offensive numbers, Bolden has always been considered an offensive defenseman who is capable of joining the rush and getting goals from any spot on the ice, something her head coach encourages.
“Blake is one of the best skaters I’ve ever seen,” Crowley said. “With her power back there [on defense], she can transition from skating backward to skating forward as fast as I’ve ever seen. The offensive side always came naturally to her. [Associate head coach] Courtney [Kennedy] has worked specifically with her on the defensive side and that has made her game complete. I tell her to jump up in the play as much as possible because she has that speed and ability to get back and defend.”
Bolden was quick to point to the close partnership that has formed between her and defensive linemate, Emily Pfalzer, as an integral part of allowing her to play such a cavalier style.
This combination of Bolden and Pfalzer began last season, Pfalzer’s first on the Heights, and it paid incredible dividends almost immediately. Bolden’s 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists) were the third-most ever posted by an Eagles defenseman in a single season. The pair excelled defensively as well, as they contributed to earning BC’s defense the No. 10 rank overall in the nation in goals allowed per game (2.14).
These gaudy numbers led to a deluge of recognition for the then-junior Bolden, as she earned First Team Hockey East and First Team New England All-Star accolades, in addition to being nominated for the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award. The Kazmaier, the women’s version of the Hobey Baker Award, is given annually to the top hockey player in Division I.
Yet, Bolden is quick to place a much greater emphasis on her team’s successes. During her time in Chestnut Hill, she and her teammates have been the engineers behind a revolution of sorts for the women’s ice hockey program.
“It’s almost as if it happened with the snap of a finger,” Bolden remarked of the program’s growth. “When I came in freshman year, we were a very young team. We had no idea what to expect, and we didn’t even make it to Hockey East [tournament], NCAAs, or anything like that. Kelli Stack and Molly [Schaus] were amazing leaders who took the reins and knew where we wanted to go as a program. I think that was contagious throughout the whole team, and we finally realized that we are a good team and that we could make it happen. Year after year, we’ve built up higher expectations like getting to the Frozen Four, winning Hockey East, wining the Beanpot and every other championship that we can possibly win. That just fueled our growth as a program.”
Bolden’s freshman season, the 2009-10 campaign, saw Crowley’s team struggle its way to a dismal 8-17-10 record. The following term would see the Eagles take an almost unprecedented step to prominence, as they made the first of those two straight Frozen Four appearances.
The mainstays that have overseen the transformation through to this season have been Bolden and her fellow seniors, along with Crowley and Kennedy. Crowley and her captain have nothing but the kindest words for how each other have contributed to BC’s ascendance into a national powerhouse in just three seasons.
“[Bolden’s] class is a big class for us in terms of the growth of our program,” Crowley explained. “Just watching her grow up from a naive freshman to now one of our hardest workers on and off the ice has been amazing. Blake as an individual has grown in that sense, and that has made her such a good leader because she’s taken that push seriously and has taken that initiative to be a better player for BC. Everyone has bought in a little bit more as a result of that. Once you taste success, you want a little bit more.”